TWO Newcastle Anglican priests, including former Dean Graeme Lawrence, suffered "extreme" prejudice when lurid accounts of group sex with a teenager were presented to a church disciplinary board contrary to evidence, the NSW Supreme Court has been told.
A prosecutor's statement that the teenager had been "deliberately plied with whisky so the priests could achieve their purpose of abuse" in a Narrandera hotel room in 1984 was not supported by the teenager's version of events, Justice John Sackar was told.
The teenager's statement that he slept in the same room as a priest, had a few drinks and "I can't remember anything specifically untoward happening", was contrary to diocese prosecutor Phil Lloyd's statements to disciplinary board hearings in Newcastle last December that led to defrocking recommendations against four priests.
The Reverend Lawrence and Cardiff priest Graeme Sturt denied allegations of sexual misconduct with the teenager, 17, and another male, 19, at the hotel.
They launched a case against Newcastle Bishop Brian Farran, diocese professional standards director Michael Elliott, professional standards board president and retired NSW magistrate Colin Elliott and others, to have the diocese's findings declared invalid.
The priests have also sought an order restraining the diocese from taking further action against them over the allegations.
Anglican Primate Archbishop Philip Aspinall was granted leave to join the case as a defendant because of significant issues raised about the operation of the church's professional standards boards.
Barrister Roger Marshall, for the priests, told the court "one of the problems of the Newcastle professional standards board is it hasn't heard many cases" and "it's a case of trial by error".
The board had shown a "preoccupation with publicity", had opened the hearings to the public despite the priests applying for in-camera hearings, and allowed a large amount of material against the Reverend Sturt that had "nothing to do with him" and was an "attempt . . . to smear him", Mr Marshall said.
The distribution of a written finding against Mr Sturt, which included material that had yet to be heard against Mr Lawrence, showed that the minds of the board members were "already made up before the first exhibits were tendered in the Lawrence case", Mr Marshall said.
Barrister Garth Blake, SC, for Newcastle diocese, said there had been no infringement of priests' civil rights, and no evidence of any loss of reputation by them had been presented to the court. The hearing continues.